It was a strong statement for China to make Monday when the country publicly destroyed more than six tons of confiscated ivory from elephant poaching.
It's called "white gold," and China has become the leading consumer of it — both legal and illegal ivory. The country has allowed the open sale of ivory goods, leading to high demand, high profits and even higher poaching rates. (Via CBS)
Even with enforced regulations on China's 37 ivory workshops, much of the legally obtained material is heavily and secretly supplemented with poached tusks. (Via ITV)
According to The Washington Post, "[Ivory trading] is a $10 billion industry that draws in global crime syndicates and African rebel groups, and threatens to wipe out elephants from some parts of the continent within a decade."
Elephant populations in Africa have taken a dramatic hit — dropping down from 1.2 million in 1980 to less than half a million in 2012. Conservation groups have estimated that about 25,000 elephants are killed each year. (Via Wildlife Conservation Society)
Tom Milliken, an expert for worldwide trade watcher group Traffic, told the BBC, "There just aren't enough elephants remaining to sustain a constant growth in ivory demand in that country."
Other countries including the U.S., Kenya and the Philippines have conducted similar ivory-destroying events recently — hoping the effort will help protect the elephants. (Via CNN)
Conservation groups like the World Wildlife Fund are pleased with China's burning of the confiscated ivory, calling it a symbolic move for elephant protection that is better late than never.